Hook Lying for Safe Release of Back Muscles

If you're like me, you feel like throwing protocol—sit in a chair, endure pain—out the window when your back hurts. You just want to lie down on your back and let the muscle tension drain away.

Well, now you can—by using the "hook lying" position. (Just don't let your boss see you.)

Hook lying is often recommended as a great way to relax back muscles.

And it's a simple position to assume: Simply lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. This position is also referred to as the "constructive rest position." This name reflects the fact that the position gives you a chance to relax physically—while at the same time keeping your mind alert. 

A woman performs the pelvic tilt exercise.

An alternative hook lying position is one in which you place your calves up on the seat of a chair, bed or other raised surface that is tall and large enough to support your legs and feet. Another name for this variation is the "90-90" position. "Ninety-ninety" refers to the angles your hips and knees make. If you use this one, be sure to check that your knees and hips are truly making right angles. The 90-90 helps align the joints of your lower extremity and low back in neutral, which in turn, helps relax muscle strain and melt away back tension.

Hook Lying's Effect on Spinal Motion

In general, when your knees are bent, your spine tends to flex. But in the hook-lying position, the flex will likely be pretty minimal. Just the same, if you have disc problems, hook lying may bring on symptoms. If it does, stop the activity; hook lying may not be the position for you.

To help support your back while hook lying, you might think about relaxing your quadriceps muscles, which are located at the front of your hip joints. Just let the weight of your thighs sink directly down into your hip sockets. (If your knees and especially hips are truly in a 90-degree angle, this should be pretty accessible.) The weight of your legs into your hips may help you maintain a small (desirable for good posture and back health) anterior tilt of your pelvis, which has the effect of slightly arching your lower back.

If you have spinal arthritis, facet pain or another condition in which you feel more pain or irritation when your low back is in extension (arched), please monitor your comfort level as you work with the sinking thigh technique described above. It's important to stop if it causes any pain. The reason: Back arching (even small amounts of it) may make symptoms associated with these types of conditions worse. By the way, most of the time arthritis and facet joint pain equates to problems located at the back of the spinal column or vertebrae.

Now that you understand the ins and outs of the hook lying position, pull up a chair and take a load off! Your back muscles may well thank you for it.

3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Aurora BayCare Medical Center. Lumbar stabilization hooklying position.

  2. Boyle KL. Managing a female patient with left low back pain and sacroiliac joint pain with therapeutic exercise: A case report. Physiother Can. 2011;63(2):154-63. doi:10.3138/ptc.2009-37

  3. Perolat R, Kastler A, Nicot B, et al. Facet joint syndrome: from diagnosis to interventional managementInsights into Imaging. 2018;9(5):773-789. doi:10.1007/s13244-018-0638-x

Additional Reading
  • Kinser, C., Colby, L.A., Therapeutic Exercise: Foundations and Techniques. 4th Edition. F.A. Davis Company. Philadelphia, PA. 2002.

By Anne Asher, CPT
Anne Asher, ACE-certified personal trainer, health coach, and orthopedic exercise specialist, is a back and neck pain expert.